If you followed the news this week, you probably heard the story of the 4 men who were knocked out of their boat by a wave off of the coast of Florida. Two of the men were NFL players. One of them was from my hometown and a childhood friend of my brother. His name was Marquis Cooper. Many people in the metro Phoenix area followed the story. Not as much for Marquis and his football career, but because of his father and the relationship he had with this community through being a sports broadcaster here for over almost 20 years.
Bruce Cooper’s most recognizable quality was his love for life. His next most obvious quality was his love for his family. Bruce always spoke of the respect of the game and the honor of being a good sport. He coached his son in community sports all the way up to high school and always supported Marquis in what he chose to do with his life. They were more than father and son….the were best friends.
On Tuesday night, a prayer service was held at Central Christian Church in Mesa, AZ. It was to pray for the rescue and/or recovery of the 3 remaining men still lost at sea. I was moved by the entire situation and attended the service. Leading the prayer and scripture reading was a young man that I knew from my younger days. He was even a couple of years younger than Marquis. He spoke with poise, respect, care, and compassion. He was no longer the boy I knew from my youth. He was now a man. There was little doubt where he had learned so much of his touch as a pastor. His name was Jeremy Jernigan, son of the church’s senior pastor, Cal Jernigan.
As I watched Jeremy comfort the family and indeed all of us who were hurting, still reflecting on how all of this was affecting Bruce, I was struck by how proud of his son Cal would be if he were in town, and not away on church business. There was so much of Cal in Jeremy. Both were gifted speakers, but there was also the clear evidence of repetition and refinement of their speaking craft. I could almost see the father as I looked up on stage at the son. As we bowed our heads for prayer, I asked God to give strength to Marquis to hold on, and that help was coming. I prayed for his father to have strength to lead the family through their fears. I prayed for God to give comfort to everyone. I particularly thought of Bruce. Then, to my surprise, the voice from the stage was no longer Jeremy’s. Cal had broken from his business trip to be back for this service. He was now speaking of comfort and hope to the family. He prioritized this service over everything else, and came to give support to a grieving family.
The legacy of both fathers is clear. Marquis will have a memorial fund set up in his name, and his father will oversee and support its impact on the community that he had lived for all of his life. Jeremy will continue to grow into his own kind of pastor, but will cling tightly to all that he has assimilated from his mentor, his father.
The least we can do is be responsible for our own actions. If we are blessed, we will be able to see what legacy will remain from those actions. What can we do today that will remain?